Winemakers drawn to historic vineyards say what they love most about these elder statesmen is imagining all the things that have happened through the generations since an old vine was planted.
I feel the same way about drinking an older bottle of wine. What was going on in Napa Valley when the 1947 Inglenook was made? Or when Joe Heitz made his first Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon in 1966?
But aged vintage wines in well-kept condition are hard to find. Three special spots in the Napa Valley devoted to cellaring and serving older wines are museums of vinous history.
The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena has been recognized for many things; after all, Executive Chef Christopher Kostow has earned three Michelin stars for his cooking. But along with its haute cuisine, it may be the best place in America to find aged Napa Valley and Russian River Valley wines.
Beauties worth considering include Mayacamas Vineyard’s 1986 Mt. Veeder Chardonnay and Rochioli’s 1992 West Block Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Merlot fanciers may ponder a 1974 from Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga, a time when the variety set hearts racing.
But it’s the wealth of old Cabernet that sets Meadowood apart. Try Beaulieu Vineyard’s 1966 Rutherford Estate. Or the winery’s 1961 Georges de Latour Private Reserve, with most subsequent vintages from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s also available.
The restaurant also lists Charles Krug’s 1951 Cabernet, as well as wines from Diamond Creek, Dominus, Heitz Cellars, Inglenook (including the 1947) and Dunn.
At the Greystone Restaurant, part of the Culinary Institute of America’s St. Helena campus, verticals from the cellar are offered by the ounce for $7–20 a taste, which makes Bryant Family’s Cabernets from 1995, 1996 and 1998–2002 an affordable temptation. Or try Peter Michael’s Les Pavots from 1997 and ’98, and Quintessa back to 1995.
Press Restaurant in St. Helena is similarly devoted to aged wines, offering what it calls a repository of knowledge on Napa Valley wines from the 1950s forward.
Guests can order 1993 Frog’s Leap Merlot (from magnum) by the glass, as well as Louis M. Martini Pinot Noir in magnums from 1968 and ’69. Press may be the sole spot outside of the wineries’ own cellars to find Chappellet’s 1980 Riesling and many Stony Hill Gewürztraminers.
For visitors to Napa Valley, these vinous treasures are the closest things to a time machine, and worth savoring every sip.
3 Napa Valley Treasure Troves
Press St. Helena
587 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena,
The Restaurant at Meadowood
900 Meadowood Lane, St. Helena,
2555 Main Street, St. Helena